Former All Black winger Zac Guildford has opened up about the tragic loss of his father that lead to a spiraling rugby career, unable to find stability even though he was playing at the highest level in the game.

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The Napier-product came through the New Zealand age-grade system before playing with the Hurricanes and Crusaders, playing 11 times for the All Blacks from 2009-12. His father passed away shortly after the JWC final against England while he was playing for the New Zealand under-20’s, a moment which he was unable to find peace with.

“I made the All Blacks when I was 20 … the year my dad passed away. I decided I’m just going to try as hard as I can for him. It was a very emotional time for myself and my family.

“But then at the same time I was hurting, I was in pain because I’d lost my dad. I was doing whatever I could to escape, whether that be rugby, whether that be drinking alcohol,” he told Eurosport.

“So my life was catastrophic … everyone thought I was living the dream in being an All Black, but in my head I was going crazy.”

At 24-years-old, Guildford received an early release from the Crusaders to join Clermont in the Top 14, which he ‘wasn’t ready for’ before heading back a year early to play Super Rugby with the Waratahs. He was released after ‘doing the same dumb stuff’, reaching a crossroads with his career.

“When I lost my contract at the Waratahs, after Clermont, I was still doing the same dumb stuff, the same old Zac. Then I went home back to Napier, no contract, no money, and I woke up in my friend’s garage one morning after a big night and [thought] I want to change.

“That’s when I decided to go play amateur rugby in New Zealand in the town I was born in Wairarapa Bush. That was a changing point in my life.”

“It took me to lose all those contracts and end up chopping trees down with my granddad and living with my grandparents to realise maybe I do love this game and I still want to give it another shot.

The 29-year-old is now playing rugby in France, with division two side Nevers.

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